Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It's Water-Wise Wednesday with Frannie the Fish! {Wetlands}

This week Frannie wants to learn about wetlands and she wants you to come along on her discovery!

Wetlands are an important part of the water cycle and perform many different functions for water, wildlife, and people.  The Environmental Protection Agency says wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present at or near the surface of the soil either all year or at different times during the year, including the growing season.  Wetlands look very different depending on where you live, and are called a number of different things - wetlands, bogs, marshes, and swamps are just a few examples.

Wetlands support very unique plant and animal life.  Because the soil in a wetland is saturated or covered with water for different amounts of time throughout the year, only certain kinds of plants can grow.  Plants that only grow partially or fully submerged in water are called hydrophytes.  Cattails, water lilies, reeds, and duckweed are just a few examples, can you think of more?

The unique environment of a wetland provides habitat to a diverse array of animals.  More than one-third of the nation's threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands (EPA).  Wetlands are home to alligators, shellfish, otters, and many species of birds, fish, and mammals.  See how many species you can name!

Wetlands also act as filters, cleaning water that fish, like Frannie, and amphibians live and grow in.  You can think of a wetland like a coffee filter that allows water to pass through but not the coffee grounds.  When runoff (water that flows over the land to surface streams, rivers, and lakes) travels through a wetland, a lot of sediment, nutrients, and perhaps pollutants the water was carrying are absorbed by the wetland.

Wetlands are also very important in preventing floods, they act like big sponges.  When it rains a lot, wetlands absorb the rainfall and fall slowly release it.  Some of this water seeps into the ground and becomes groundwater!  This is very important in protecting our homes, schools, and other buildings we use.

Wetlands are also used by people for recreation - for birdwatching, hunting, or just taking a hike.

Find out more about wetlands here.  Try to find all the words in the Water Word Hunt below!